NEW YORK — For the first time in almost two years, Brooklyn Nets swingman T.J. Warren was back in action on an NBA floor again.
Warren, who hadn’t played since Dec. 29, 2020, as a member of the Indiana Pacers, returned Friday night against the Toronto Raptors after enduring several surgeries on his left foot and an arduous rehab schedule.
“It almost felt like a dream,” Warren said after scoring 10 points in the Nets’ 114-105 win. “As soon as I checked in, it kind of hit me like, ‘Wow, this is real.’ Once I got up and down it was just like, ‘All right, this is basketball.’ So it was just super fun to be out there and compete with the guys.”
Warren checked in with 4 minutes, 14 seconds left in the first quarter, subbing in for Royce O’Neale. He scored his first points of the season less than a minute later, draining a 14-footer to give the Nets a 32-10 lead. He was 5 for 11 from the field and had four rebounds in 17 minutes.
Warren impressed his teammates and coaches just by getting on the floor again.
“It’s a huge hurdle,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said after the game. “And I think if you strip it down to — he hasn’t played in two years. He played four games in two years. And for him to get back out here, in a professional game … and look and feel pretty comfortable out there, not look out of place, I hope that reassures him that he’s done all the recovery.
“The people who have helped him get back to this position in his life deserve a lot of credit, and he deserves a lot of credit for sticking with it.”
Vaughn and Warren’s teammates had been waiting for this moment for a while. Vaughn said the group poked some good-natured fun at Warren during Friday’s shootaround, given how long he had been away from the game.
Having gone through his own serious injuries during his career, Nets star forward Kevin Durant said he knew how big a milestone it was for Warren to play at the highest level again.
“He’s a poised guy,” Durant said. “He showed that he belongs out here. It felt like he didn’t really miss too much of a [beat]. Two years he missed? It didn’t feel like that. But we still got to be patient with him. We still understand that he had tough injuries and he spent a lot of time away from the game, but he looked great to me.”
During his nearly two years away from the game, Warren said he worked on some other aspects of the game off the floor.
“Working on my mental health as well,” Warren said before the game. “Just being away from a game that you’ve been doing for 20-plus years. And for it to be taken away from you is definitely an eye-opener. It made me just look myself in the mirror and realize that one day the ball can stop bouncing, so it just put things in perspective in that way.”